By: Tamara Nassar
An Israeli interrogator raped a Palestinian child detainee in prison, he told Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP).
The 15-year-old boy, whose identity is known to DCIP but withheld for privacy reasons, gave his testimony to the human rights group.
Israel had placed the boy under house arrest in November 2020.
Israeli occupation forces then took him from his home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiyeh in the middle of the night on 13 January. He was supposed to appear in court on that day.
The experience of a night arrest alone is particularly traumatic for children and their families.
Israeli forces then took the child to the Russian Compound interrogation and torture facility in Jerusalem, where he was handcuffed and blindfolded in a hallway and attacked by passersby.
“Every two to three minutes, someone would come by and slap, push, punch or kick me,” the boy told DCIP.
He said he was then taken to a room where he was interrogated by a man who identified himself as Captain Kamel.
“He kicked me and punched me while shouting and saying I should tell him what I did,” the boy recalled. He was accused of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.
“Whenever I told him I did not do anything, he would beat me harder. He threatened to shock me with electricity, but I told him I did not do anything.”
The boy said that the same individual “knocked him to the floor while blindfolded and raped him with an object,” according to DCIP. The individual threatened to continue with the sexual violence until the boy confessed.
The boy said the individual then pressed him against the wall and inflicted intense pain on his genitals.
“There are no words to describe that moment,” the child told DCIP.
Captain Kamel also threatened that the physical and sexual violence would continue if the boy told his lawyer what had occurred.
Around 15 minutes after the incident the boy was allowed to see his lawyer for five minutes.
He was again interrogated in the hours and days that followed, subject to verbal abuse and forced to sign documents in Hebrew that he did not understand.
While the boy’s testimony is shocking, in recent years there have been consistent reports of sexual threats and violence against Palestinian children and adults by Israeli interrogators.
In 2013, a 14-year-old boy who was detained in the Russian Compound said that an Israeli interrogator threatened to rape him with a broomstick unless he signed a confession.
The same year, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported that Palestinian children detained at Etzion police station in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank had been habitually tortured and abused, and in some cases threatened with sexual violence.
More than 60 testimonies from Palestinians detained in the settlement between 2009 and 2013, mostly children, included accounts of “severe physical violence,” in some cases amounting to torture.
Twelve of the accounts included claims that an Israeli interrogator “had threatened them or female relatives with sexual assault, such as rape and genital injury,” B’Tselem said.
The nature of the threats and violence also appears to be consistent. The most recent case bears similarity to the account of a 23-year-old Palestinian man in 2007, which appeared in a study published in 2015 by the journal Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters.
“They took off my trousers and underwear and shove[d] a pole into my behind,” the prisoner, whose identity is also undisclosed, told the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) at the time.
“They stopped when someone came in and asked what they were doing,” he added.
“A little later, the officer took me to the toilet, locked the door, sat me down and urinated on my face and body.”
The study looked at PCATI’s database during 2005-2012, and found that 60 of the 1,500 testimonies included accounts of sexual torture and ill-treatment by soldiers, police, intelligence personnel and jailers.
The case of the 23-year-old was the only one reportedly involving rape – with an object – although there were others that included threats of sexual assault or simulated sexual assault.
There were zero convictions related to any of the 60 testimonies – though one case was still pending at the time of writing in 2015.
Sexual violence against detainees is a form of torture, with lasting psychological effects. This form of violence includes verbal sexual harassment, forced nudity and physical sexual assault, according to the journal study.
The prevalence of sexual violence perpetrated against Palestinian prisoners by their Israeli captors is not fully known.
Additionally, the study relied only on the testimonies collected by PCATI.
Sexual violence remains generally underreported, no less in the case of Palestinians detained by Israel.
Palestinians may be reluctant to give their testimony out of fear of retribution, hesitant to give it to an Israeli organization, or may be discouraged by the stigma attached to being the victim of such violence.
In addition to the dangers and psychological costs of reporting such abuse, there is the scant prospect of receiving any justice even while bearing the emotional, time and financial costs of attempting to pursue a claim.
Such factors are known to discourage reporting of sexual crimes in many jurisdictions, but are particularly acute for Palestinians in a context where Israel’s military investigation system is a fig leaf for the occupation, affording Palestinians no access to justice.
While Israel’s high court supposedly outlawed torture in 1999, it ruled that the domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet can use torture in supposedly rare and exceptional “ticking time bomb” circumstances to investigate Palestinian prisoners.
Torture is absolutely prohibited internationally under all circumstances, and no such exceptions exist.
But Shin Bet has cited the “ticking time bomb” pretext to torture hundreds of Palestinians, according to Amnesty International.
Israel’s “ticking time bomb” loophole was cited by the CIA to justify the US government’s use of torture, a Senate inquiry revealed in 2014.
Ali Abunimah contributed reporting.